SIFNOS | GREEK ISLANDS | CYCLADES
Sifnos is a low-key island that respects tradition. You’ll have the opportunity of seeing 366 beautiful churches, ancient towers, white Cycladic villages. You can walk to monasteries and swim in the clear waters of its pleasant beaches.
Sifnos is an ideal island for those who need peace and relaxation. Quality and simplicity are the keynotes of its Cycladic architecture, its hotels and its tavernas. So far, it has managed to avoid mass tourism.
SIFNOS IN BRIEF
Sifnos is located in the middle of the western Cyclades islands. It has 2,600 inhabitants and is surrounded by other islands, which enhance the view and invite you to extend your trip, in order to visit them. The climate is mild Mediterranean, with ample sunshine and low rainfall. Sifnos is quiet all year round, except for August. The island is known for its ceramics, pastries and cooking.
You’re sure to be pleased with the food, as many Sifniots have worked as cooks on ships, travelling extensively and bringing back flavours from all corners of the earth. Many of its regular visitors are intellectuals and artists. Vehicles are banned in the narrow streets of three major villages — Artemonas, Apollonia and Kastro. Festivals are frequently organized by the island’s churches, which are supervised by local families.
SIFNOS HISTORICAL INFO
Some say that Siphnos, leader of the Ionian colonists (1000 BC), a hero of Attica and the son of Sounios, gave the island its name, but it may derive from the Greek word “sifnfis” meaning “hollow”, which would refer to the galleries of its famous mines. Herodotus writes that the inhabitants were wealthy because of the gold and silver mines in the Agios Sostis region. Attractive buildings were a feature of their towns, and they had offered the famous Siphnian Treasury (530 BC) to the oracle at Delphi. After having been ruled by the Macedonians and Romans, the inhabitants suffered repeated pirate raids and it was then that most of the beacon towers were built. During the era of the Crusaders, the Venetian duke Marco Sanudo conquered Sifnos and other Cycladic islands with his galleys. From 1617, the island paid head taxes to the Turks. In 1821, it participated in the Greek War of Independence.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN SIFNOS
The capital and Sifnos’ largest village, it extends over three hills, virtually joined to Exambella, Ano Petali and Artemonas. The island’s main life is concentrated along the narrow pedestrian street, Stylianou Prokou, which begins near the square and ends at the Agios Spyridon church. We suggest you stroll along this street, which offers almost everything. Visit the Folk Art Museum on the square ( 9 am-2 pm and 7-10 pm, closed on holidays*), with a collection of pottery, embroidery, local costumes and weapons from the 1821 revolution and the church of Stavros and Agios Athanassios, with its frescoes and wooden icon screen. Apollonia’s cathedral, Agios Spyridon, will also catch your eye and look for the Chryssopigi icon, which is considered miraculous. In Stylianou Prokou, there is a series of bars and tavernas, as well as elegant shops with clothes, ceramics and jewellery. In Ano Petali, you can see the 18th c. Panagia tin Ouranofora (or Geranofora) church, built on the ruins of an ancient temple.
Sifnos’s main port, in a deep natural bay. Although touristically developed, it has managed to retain its own character. The waterfront is full of hotels, tavernas, bars, shops and pottery workshops. You can swim at the pleasant sandy beach, which is shared with the tourist village of Agia Marina.
An isolated fishing village on the island’s northern point, with two tavernas, which serve fresh lobster cultivated there, an attractive pottery workshop and some fishing caiques. There is also a small, relatively good beach. You can get there by a poor road or by caique.
Village featuring neo-classical buildings and mansions, with pretty gardens. At the village entrance, is the church of Agios Konstantinos, while at the village center, the Panagia tis Ammou church with its marvellous icon screen. Several windmills are also located on the top of the hill. If you go up there, you’ll have a panoramic view of the surrounding islands and some of Sifnos’s villages. Artemonas has elegant boutiques, traditional bakeries, a pottery workshop, and Theodoros’s famous pastry shop. The walk from Artemonas to Kastro takes about half an hour. On the way, visit the Agios Chryssostomos church, with its palm tree.
The most important historical site in Sifnos. A Venetian village was built perimetrically on a hill next to the sea, over the island’s ancient acropolis. It was used as a fort against pirate attacks and was Sifnos’s capital until 1836. Two narrow roads cross the village — one on the external side of the walls and the other on the inner. You can enter the village through the three arcade-entrances, once called loggias. Wander along the narrow alleys within the walls, and feel the trench-like protection offered by the extreme closeness of the houses, constructed almost one on top of the other, both left and right. Note the ancient columns and the coats of arms.
It is interesting from a town-planning point of view that Kastro is the first place in Greece to have introduced horizontal ownership of premises. Taking the external perimeter road, you’ll find yourself between a spectacularview of the sea and the unique architecture of the houses. Walk down the carefully constructed path, and in five minutes, you’ll reach the Eptamartyros church, on the rocks overlooking the sea. Here you can swim in the clear, deep water. Following the signs, you’ll find the Archaeological Museum, where the area’s ancient finds are on display. On the way out, if you turn right and walk for a while, you’ll reach a small gate from where there is a magnificent view of the Aegean.
Pretty fishing port in the bay under Kastro. You can cool off in the deep, clear waters of the tiny beach.
A fishing harbour in a deep and sheltered bay, with two beaches, rooms for rent and several tavernas, not particularly noteworthy. Until 1883, it was the island’s official port. On the western side, the remains can still be seen of the loading facilities for minerals sent to the mainland for processing. The hamlet got its name from the lighthouse (faros in Greek), which is located on the right of the harbour, near the Stavrou monastery. It is a picturesque little village, which attracts a lot of visitors in summer.
The Panagia Chryssopigi monastery is built on a very picturesque promontory, on the foundations of an older church (1650). The icon of the Virgin is believed to perform miracles and is linked to numerous traditions. See the old stone icon screen with the 1818 marble eagle and admire the magnificent scenery. Chryssopigi is the island’s patron saint whose feast day is magnificently celebrated on Ascension Day, 40 days after Easter, all day, with the island speciality, chickpea soup offered to all comers. For strong swimmers, we suggest you dive into the crystal-clear, deep waters, from the rocks or from the smooth stone slabs around the monastery. For those who prefer to avoid the rocks, there is a small pebble beach, about 100 m to the right of the monastery. The excellent Lembessis taverna is located in the adjoining bay of Apokofto.
Sifnos’ most developed beach, with hotels, tavernas and bars right on the seafront. On the top of the hill, is the Panagia tou Vounou monastery (1813) and north-east, the ruins of an ancient structure, the Aspros Pyrgos. At the entrance to the bay is Kypriani (or Kitriani), an uninhabited islet, with only one building, the Panagia tis Kyprianis chapel.
A few kilometres down the road from Apollonia to Vathy, see on the right the old Fyrogion monastery, with its bakery and olive press. On the way there, are also the ancient 4th c. BC towers, observation posts to warn of enemy attacks. Vathy is an unpretentious little settlement on the island’s second largest sandy beach, after Platys Gialos. The beautiful Taxiarchis church, with its unusual double dome, has been built virtually on the sea.The panigyri on Taxiarchi’s feast day 5 September, is one of the oldest of the island, attracting flocks of people. With a parking area at the village entrance, Vathy is a good choice for family holidays, as children are free to play without the danger of traffic.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
Before setting out, ask a local shopkeeper or taxi driver in the nearest village square when they are open and who has the key.
Panagia tou Vounou
A triple-aisled church built on a hill, with a view of Platys Gialos. It’s worth visiting because of its
history, its all-white architecture and its interesting old icon screen. See the icon tis Mahairoussas
and the abbot’s quarters, and catch the stunning view from the verandas. For the romantic, a full-
moon visit is recommended.
A fine 8th c. Byzantine monastery with a marble icon screen in the 12th c. chapel. It’s a 90 min walk from Apollonia, but you’ll be amply rewarded by the wonderful view. See the old icon screen, the arched, oblong refectory and the underground arcades, reminiscent of catacombs.
A church with marvellous architecture (1871), impressive bell-towers and a magnificent dome. At the main entrance, see the marble depiction of the Annunciation and the marble eagle with the animals in his talons. On its feast day of 15 August there is a panigyri here, too.
The 20 min walk from Kastro, along the Maina path, is probably the best walk in Sifnos. You can also go by road (3 km from Apollonia).
Theologos tou Moungou
A nunnery, whose operation was banned in 1834, after an order by the new Bavarian rulers of Greece. See the wood-carved icon screen, the floor with the painted two-headed eagle inside the church, the paved courtyards and the prioress’s quarters, and enjoy the view of the surrounding villages.
Agios Chryssostomos Monastery
On the Kastro road, after Kato Petali. A former Venetian fortress which was converted into a church. In 1653, the historic Fytia school (the precursor of national education) functioned there. See the iconostasis with the old icons, the two-headed eagle on the floor (1818) and the bishops throne.
EXCURSION BY CAIQUE
From Kamares to Gialoudia and to Herronissos
At Gialoudia, you can swim at a deserted pebble beach, although the water is nothing special. Avoid Vroulidia — which many may recommend, but which is unfortunately strewn with rubbish — and have your next dip in the clear waters in front of the stairs to Agios Philippos, once a very pretty little church, spoiled by the recent annexe.
BEST BEACHES IN SIFNOS
The island’s beaches are not outstanding. However, the sea is clean and clear, and the variety of choices available helps avoid crowding. For good swimmers, the beautiful rocks at Chryssopigi or at the Eptamartyros church, under the Kastro, would be the best choice. Most of the beaches with sand, pebbles or stones, are close to villages. We have listed them in order of preference.
A fairly good sandy beach in a bay protected from the meltemi winds. The beach is best on the left side, but — strangely enough — the sea is clearer on the right, in front of the settlement, immediately after the church.
Next to the port, in the village. The beach is a good one and the nearby tavernas
offer shade and tasty food.
Considered to be Sifnos’s best sandy beach. Swimming can be combined with lunch or drinks at the tavernas, snack bars and beach bars on the shore.
A quiet, though mediocre beach, with clear water, in the cove next to Faros.
Of the two so-so beaches in the bay, the best one is the most remote, on the right side.
SIFNOS TIPS & INFORMATION
HOW TO GET TO SIFNOS
From Piraeus Port Authority, tel. 0030210 4172675
CONNECTIONS FROM SANTORINI
By sea from from Sifnos to Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Serifos, Santorini,
Syros, Folegandros, Sikinos, Tinos and Karystos
HOW TO GET AROUND IN SIFNOS
There are four buses and about 10 taxis for the island’s visitors. In addition, you can hire a car or a moped at the larger villages (Kamares, Artemonas and Apollonia). The buses run regularly to all the island’s main points. The distances are small, so many people prefer to walk, especially between Apollonia and Artemonas, or Artemonas and Kastro.
BEST SEASON TO VISIT SIFNOS
For holidays, until early July, there are very few visitors. The island becomes crowded only between July 20 and August 20.
WHAT TO BUY IN SIFNOS
The best ceramics in Greece, textiles, pastries, traditional cheeses and wines.
Sifnos is famous for its local specialities and several top chefs were born here. Try revithada (oven-baked chick-peas with spices, in a ceramic dish) mastelo (oven-baked lamb or goat), baked sweets, tyropita (cheese pie) and bougatsa (custard pie) at the Kastro bakery.
SAFE WATER SPORTS IN SIFNOS
For useful safety information and licensed water sports centers please visit
Safe Water Sports
SIFNOS USEFUL TELEPHONES NUMBERS
Apollonia Community Office 000302284031345
Artemonas Community Office 000302284032388
Sifnos Information Office (Kamares) 000302284031977
Police (Apollonia) 000302284031210
Sifnos Port Authority (Kamares) 000302284033617
Sifnos Health Centre 0003022840 31315
Sifnos Taxis 000302284033719